British MP says decision to ban him from Canada was inappropriate
A British MP told CBC News on Sunday that it was inappropriate of border officials to ban him from entering Canada based on security grounds and he hopes the immigration minister will intervene.
"This is a misuse of the war on terror. This is a misuse of security concerns in service of what is clearly a political act to try to gag me," said George Galloway, in an interview from London, England. "But I don't think it'll succeed."
A former British Labour Party member now with the Respect party, Galloway was scheduled to speak March 30 at a Toronto conference called Resisting War from Gaza to Kandahar, hosted by the Toronto Coalition to Stop the War. He was also planning to speak at three other locations, including at a public forum the following day in nearby Mississauga.
Galloway said a British newspaper first reported he was being denied entry into Canada because of his views on Afghanistan, but by the time he got a letter last week from the Canadian High Commission in London, "it had morphed into some kind of complaint about the aid convoy that I had led of 110 British vehicles and 350 British citizens, carrying everything from medicines to nappies to wheelchairs on board ambulances into the besieged Gaza Strip a week or two ago."
British MP to begin U.S. visit
Galloway, who has been re-elected five times, said he's leaving London on Monday for an eight-city tour of the United States, which he said has not banned him from visiting even with its anti-terrorism laws, and that he plans to try to cross the Canadian border while he is in North America.
"The idea that I've metamorphosed into a security risk overnight against Canada … is just ridiculous," said Galloway, who claims he visits Canada regularly without incident.
Galloway reiterated Sunday that he is appealing the decision to bar him, "just in case the minister of immigration has been misinformed as to what I do, say and stand for."
Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney has the authority to override the decision made by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, but he said Friday that he won't intervene.
CBC News requested an interview with Kenney on Sunday, but his office said he was unavailable and released a statement reiterating his position.
"The minister will not give a special exemption from Canada's security laws to Mr. Galloway, nor will he provide special treatment to a man who brags about giving financial support to Hamas, a banned terrorist organization in Canada, or who offers sympathy for Canada's enemies in Afghanistan," said the statement.
It also said, "I'm sure Mr. Galloway has a large Rolodex of friends in regimes elsewhere in the world willing to roll out the red carpet for him. Canada, however, won't be one of them."
Opposition questions ban
In Winnipeg on Friday, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said while he's no fan of Galloway, people can't be banned from Canada for what they may say.
"If he is being barred on free speech grounds that is an outrage," Ignatieff said. "He can come to Canada and talk rubbish all day long as far as I'm concerned."
But Ignatieff said Canadian security officials may know something he doesn't.
"If there is a security threat, that is another matter," he said.
NDP immigration critic Olivia Chow said the Conservatives have a pattern of suppressing those who have contradictory views.
"The minister of immigration is becoming the minister of censorship," Chow told Canadian Press. "We don't have to agree with everything Mr. Galloway talks about.
"But, at bare minimum, they should be allowed to express their points of view so Canadians can make decisions themselves. This is pure censorship and it's wrong."
Jewish groups pleased
Jewish organizations B'nai Brith and the Canadian Jewish Congress applauded the decision on Friday.
Galloway was expelled from the Labour party in 2003 after publicly lashing out against British involvement in the Iraq war. Labour party officials said Galloway's comments "incited foreign forces to rise up against British troops."
He later helped form the anti-war Respect party.
In 2006, Egyptian authorities barred him from entering the country to take part in an anti-war event.